Everyone reading this article is probably a die-hard fan of The Walking Dead, much like myself. We obviously love the show and will always stick with it, no matter what. However, it seems we are alone in our passion, as the viewership for the show has dropped dramatically this season.
Things started off strong with the season premiere setting a ratings record with over 17 million viewers. Season premieres always bring in strong numbers, though. And let’s not forget that massive cliffhanger with Negan that was looming overhead.
When the Spiral Began
Image Credit: AMC
The ratings have steadily gone down each week since, bottoming out with episode 6, “Swear,” with 10 million viewers. It seems not everyone was on board with the idea of spending an entire episode with Tara. There was a slight uptick with the episode, “Sing Me a Song,” but it wasn’t significant. The average ratings this season are the lowest the show has seen since Season 3.
Still, let’s be clear about one thing — The Walking Dead is not going anywhere. Even with a dip in the ratings, it’s still the number one show on TV among the coveted young adult demographic. It’s an impressive feat, especially for a show that’s been on for seven years now.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine AMC isn’t at least a little concerned about losing viewers. Even among us die-hard fans, there’s been plenty of criticism about Season 7. So what changes could the show make to try and win back the viewers they have left?
Stop Spreading the Characters So Thin
The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC
The Walking Dead followed a pattern for the past several years. In the season premiere, the entire group is together for some big, dramatic event. Then, for several episodes we follow only a few characters at a time. It’s a way to devote more time to character development, but it also often has a way of grinding the story to a halt.
- Did we really need an entire episode with Carol and Morgan at The Kingdom?
- Or a full episode with Daryl being tortured?
- What about an entire episode devoted to Maggie and Sasha at the Hilltop?
- And, even though I actually enjoyed it, did we really need a full hour of Tara’s solo adventures?
Some of these events could have been combined into one or two episodes, keeping the action going and speeding up the storyline significantly. Episode length is another issue.
Stop With the Extended Episodes
If a truly epic event takes place on an episode of The Walking Dead, then sometimes an extended runtime is appropriate. This season though, the producers went hog wild with longer episodes. Many viewers complained that it’s all an excuse for AMC to stuff the episodes with more ads. But viewers complained even more about their next complaint.
Tone Down the Violence
The Walking Dead | Photo Credit AMC
Hold on — put down your pitchforks and hear me out. I don’t actually think they should do this, but if we’re being realistic about bringing back viewers, losing some of the gore could help. The deaths of Glenn and Abraham in Season 7’s premiere, constituted the most graphic violence ever shown on The Walking Dead. Many viewers said it was too much and they weren’t watching anymore.
Perhaps they were telling the truth and their absence is reflected in the falling ratings. Now, I’ll defend the violence in that episode to my own dying breath. I think it was necessary to convey the seriousness of the threat Negan presented. Just as he was there to shake up the characters, we as viewers needed a shake-up, as well. We needed something to tell us this wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill villain. At least that’s my take.
Give It Time
In the end, I think viewers will soon return to The Walking Dead. Once the tide is turned and the communities rise up against Negan, it will become appointment television once again. People love to root for their heroes, but sometimes you’ve got to watch them suffer before they can rise.
What do you think The Walking Dead can do to bring back fans?